• Philrem, Bautistas slapped with money laundering raps

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    The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) on Thursday filed criminal complaints against Philrem Service Corp. and three of its officers for laundering stolen money.

    The remittance firm, Philrem president Salud Bautista, chairman of the board and treasurer Michael “Concon” Bautista, and Anthony Pelejo, the firm’s AMLC Compliance Officer, were charged at the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the illegal transfer of $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh Bank. The council said Philrem was a conduit to the transaction that started when the money was transferred to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC).

    The respondents were charged with violating several provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act particularly Section 4 a (transacts monetary instruments or property that represents, involves, or related to the proceeds of an unlawful activity), 4 b (converts, transfers, disposes of, moves, acquires, possesses or uses said monetary instrument or property), 4 f (performs or fails to perform any act as a result of which he facilitates a money laundering offense); Section 9 b (record keeping); and Section 14 c, malicious reporting.

    The AMLC earlier filed criminal complaints against ousted RCBC branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito and the owners of the bank accounts where the dirty money was deposited — Michael Franciso Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez.

    Also charged were casino junket operator Kim Wong and Weikang Xu.

    In its complaint against Philrem, the AMLC said it was able to confirm that the stolen funds were credited to fictitious bank accounts of Cruz, Lagrosas, Vergara and Vasquez, which were all opened on May 15, 2015.

    It added that Philrem became a “cleaning house” of the stolen money.

    “Philrem, acting as remittance agent, actually co-mingled the funds and acted as a ‘cleaning house.’ Philrem’s role was to make it extremely difficult to trace the source and flow of the funds by avoiding all anti-money laundering measures set by laws and regulations,” the council said.

    “The participation of Philrem was really to ‘wash’ the funds and conceal the money trail. In fact, the funds could have been directly transferred from the bank account of [‘William So Go’] to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries,” it added.

    The AMLC explained that Philrem’s participation was not necessary because the funds could have been directly transferred from the bank account of Go to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries that, however, would have been easily prevented or tracked.

    It said $65 million of the stolen money was withdrawn from the fictitious bank accounts of Cruz, Lagrosas, Bergara and Vasquez on February 5 and 9, 2016, then transferred to the “Go/Centurytex” account. $13 million of the amount was then transferred to the RCBC account of Abba Currency Exchange Inc. on February 9.

    On February 5, 9 and 10, 2016, $52,668,664.37 in the Go account was transferred to the RCBC-Unimart Greenhills account of Philrem.

    Also, $15,215,922.26 from Vasquez’s account was also transferred to Philrem.
    On February 11, Abba and Beacon transferred $10 milion and $3 million to the RCBC-Pasig branch account of Philrem.

    On February 17, Pelejo submited a suspicious transaction report (STR) indicating that $80,884,641.63 had been remitted to Solaire, Eastern Hawaii and Weikang Xu as instructed by a certain “William Go,” the AMLC said.

    It found that the fact that Kim Wong received funds from Philrem was omitted from the STR narrative submitted by Pelejo.

    “What is highly irregular was that respondent spouses claimed that they were dealing with [RCBC Jupiter] Branch manager [Maia Santos] Deguito, not the ‘owner’ of the account, ‘William So Go,’” the council said.

    “It is contrary to business practice that a person would deal in large amounts of money with someone who is not the owner of the account, nor someone who was [not]duly authorized by the owner,” it added.

    “The foregoing circumstances clearly show that [respondent spouses Bautista]were aware that the funds were not legitimate when they deliberately ignored the AMLA (RA 9160) requirements to conduct [know your customer]and record keeping of customer information. Had they done so, respondent spouses would have personally interviewed the real William Go and discover that the latter was not aware of the existence of the RCBC accounts [under his name].”

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